The BBC is reporting that police are giving leaflets to people who they believe are at risk of committing sex abuse, asking for their behaviour to stop.
The leaflets, known as C5 Notices, explain the law relating to sex abuse and are being distributed by Hampshire Police when there is insufficient evidence to press charges. A total of 54 leaflets have been issued since they were introduced almost two years ago.
The aim of the leaflets is to educate recipients about the legal position governing sexual conduct, such as the age of consent. It is hoped that they will cause potential sex abuse offenders to reconsider their conduct and avoid crimes being committed. Other police forces are now considering adopting the idea.
But the use of the leaflets has come under fire, with a Police and Crime Commissioner saying they "won't protect a soul". Worries have been expressed that it is simply a cost cutting measure, an accusation that Hampshire Police have firmly denied.
Critics have also expressed concern about the impact that C5 Notices may have on the recipients themselves. They point out that the Notices pose a threat to individual rights on the basis that being issued with a leaflet is in effect criminalisation by default. There is a particular risk that it could be revealed in an enhanced DBS check, which might prejudice a person’s employment opportunities. Hampshire Police have said that a warning notice would only be disclosed during a DBS check if it was relevant to the request.
The use of these sex abuse leaflets is part of a wider government funded scheme to support the development of preventative initiatives to complement existing statutory approaches to sex abuse in the UK.
Specialist sex abuse lawyer, Rachel Thain commented:
“Anything that prevents sex abuse taking place has to be applauded. The problem is endemic in this country and new strategies must be considered. However it is also important that offenders are brought to justice and schemes like this mustn’t be used as an alternative to the criminal justice system where acts of sex abuse have taken place”
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